Pastor’s Page – Stewardship Part 3

This is the third column in my series on stewardship.

When I was a newly ordained priest at Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill, I was encouraged like other members of the pastoral staff to attend a Catholic conference each year. For two of my four years, I attended the International Catholic Stewardship Conference, first in Chicago and then in Miami. My eyes were opened to a new experience of Catholicism.

Parish employees and leaders shared their best practices for deeper engagement with their parishioners and delivering the traditional Catholic faith in innovative ways to a wider audience. Speakers inspired plenary sessions with thousands from across the country, parish support organizations like Our Sunday Visitor shared their services in breakout sessions, and parishes showcased their materials in the exhibit hall: new parishioner welcome packets, parochial school brochures, parish business cards for parishioners to stash in their wallets and share when the opportunity arose, and so much more.

Stewardship in the context of the conference included branding and marketing, communications and technology, donor and volunteer management, evangelization, charitable outreach – every parish activity that helped it go deeper with existing members and go wider in the local community to attract new members.

Liturgy and music and religious education are essential parish services. Stewardship is the growing edge of the parish – the parish can live without it but not grow without it. In the past year, Cheryl Judge, our office manager, has spent less time at the fax and copier machine and more time forming new ministries like the hospitality committee and helping parishioners to find their best fit in the parish. Therefore, I’ve reorganized the staff so that Cheryl can devote her time to these new responsibilities as Director of Stewardship and asked Thomas Walheim, the parish secretary, to share Cheryl’s office responsibilities with Anna Callaghan, our Business Manager.

Three weeks ago, we shared a “Forward in Faith” report showing we’ve nearly returned to our pre-pandemic Sunday attendance and offertory numbers. However, 2024 must be about more than “back to even”; it must also be about growth. I’m confident our stewardship efforts will achieve that.